Adam Ash

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Monday, October 31, 2005

Columnist Maureen Dowd can't get laid, or: should feminism embrace objectification?

Columnist Maureen Dowd, the well-known Queen of Snark, tackles feminism in a NY Times piece called “What’s a modern girl to do?”

She explains that instead of clearing things up between the sexes, feminism has intensified the confusion between the sexes. “Men and women are still in a muddle in the boardroom, the bedroom and the Situation Room.”

She makes these six points:

1. Women have gone back to pre-feminist womanly wiles to attract men, like playing hard to get and being soft as a kitten, and avoiding sarcasm altogether.

2. No more going Dutch for dinner. Today’s woman offers to pay her half-share afterwards, but if the man accepts, he won’t get a second date.

3. Ms. Is dead; most women prefer to be Mrs. and take their husband’s last name when they marry.

4. Women have to suppress their intelligence to catch a man. A 2005 report indicates that the prospect for marriage increased by 35% for guys for each 16-point increase in I.Q.; for women, there is a 40% drop for each 16-point rise.

5. A successful career stops a woman from marrying and having children. A survey found that 55% of 35-year-old career women were childless. Among corporate executives who earn $100,000 or more, 49% of the women did not have children, compared with 19% of the men.

She tells this story from her own life.
At a party for the Broadway opening of "Sweet Smell of Success," a top New York producer gave me a lecture on the price of female success that was anything but sweet. He confessed that he had wanted to ask me out on a date when he was between marriages but nixed the idea because my job as a Times columnist made me too intimidating. Men, he explained, prefer women who seem malleable and awed. He predicted that I would never find a mate because if there's one thing men fear, it's a woman who uses her critical faculties. Will she be critical of absolutely everything, even his manhood?

He had hit on a primal fear of single successful women: that the aroma of male power is an aphrodisiac for women, but the perfume of female power is a turnoff for men. It took women a few decades to realize that everything they were doing to advance themselves in the boardroom could be sabotaging their chances in the bedroom, that evolution was lagging behind equality.
That’s the nub of her complaint. Feminists don’t get laid. She doesn’t get laid because she’s successful.

What a crock. The man who is intimidated by a woman’s intelligence or success isn’t worth having by that woman. As a man, I want a woman who is intelligent. Also, I’d love a woman who is more successful and makes more money than me; what a relief not to have the role of breadwinner. The idea that being a breadwinner makes you a man is just too fifties for me. And the idea that economic success defines your character is just too shallow. My advice to successful women: be grateful that your success as a woman scares off the ninnies you don’t want to be involved with anyway.

6. The final point she makes is about objectification.
Women have moved from fighting objectification to seeking it … When Gloria Steinem wrote that "all women are Bunnies," she did not mean it as a compliment; it was a feminist call to arms. Decades later, it's just an aesthetic fact, as more and more women embrace Botox and implants and stretch and protrude to extreme proportions to satisfy male desires. Now that technology is biology, all women can look like inflatable dolls. It's clear that American narcissism has trumped American feminism.

It was naïve and misguided for the early feminists to tendentiously demonize Barbie and Cosmo girl, to disdain such female proclivities as shopping, applying makeup and hunting for sexy shoes and cute boyfriends and to prognosticate a world where men and women dressed alike and worked alike in navy suits and were equal in every way.
She's on to something here. One of the charges against early 2nd wave feminism was that it was anti-sex; yet there are enough pro-sex feminists to belie the stereotype. It’s OK to be a pro-sex feminist -- or for that matter, a lipstick lesbian.

But can you be a feminist and actively embrace objectification? I believe you can.

It’s time to change the view that dressing up for the opposite sex, and making your sexuality obvious to males in a way they enjoy, is anti-feminist. It’s not. It’s playing the sexual game. Instead of disdaining the male view that women be girly and sexy, women should require from men that men themselves stop being slobs and dress and look sexy.

The proper feminist stance would be to require an equal effort from men to dress and look sexy – for men to ascribe to the female view of what a sexy man should look like. Women should be free to “objectify” themselves, and demand from men that they “objectify” themselves for women.

Blame the patriarchy not for requiring you to look like a sex kitten, but for allowing men to dress and look like slobs. If you dress to appeal to the opposite sex, you’re not “objectifying” yourself: you’re not playing up to the patriarchy: you’re simply wanting to get laid.

And what’s wrong with that?


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